My friend Deb is dog sitting her son’s 15 year old Boxer, Marilyn. Deb also has a 16 year old Fox Terrier named Ellie. Marilyn is a regular guest at Deb’s house and knows the house and the inhabitants very well. Deb talks to both dogs in a way I find terribly funny. They respond to her in ways that makes me think that dogs are even smarter than we already give them credit for.
One night this week, Deb was awakened by Ellie pawing at her arm and whining. This can mean that Ellie wants food or that something is wrong. Deb told Ellie “Lie down and go to sleep! You can’t have any treats.” yet Ellie persisted, so she told Ellie “Show me what’s wrong.” Ellie led her to the kitchen, where she found a horrible mess. All the lower cupboards had been opened and all their contents swept onto the floor. Peanut butter containers had been chewed open and the contents devoured. Marilyn has been known to do this before, but she can only open one side of the two-door cupboards. Both sides had been opened. This means that someone else (a certain Fox Terrier) helped open all the doors. Deb yelled “Marilyn, come here! You know you aren’t supposed to open the cupboards”! Marilyn came over and glared at Deb and blew out her dewlaps, and grumbled “row row row row row” the way Boxers talk, and blew out her dewlaps again. Deb told Ellie “You go in your bed!” and Ellie slunk to her dog bed with her tail down.
The next morning, Deb gave Ellie her favorite treat-two ice cubes, and Marilyn stole one. She chewed only half of it and spat out the other half onto the hardwood floor because her mouth got too cold. Deb didn’t see it and stepped on it. Deb was quite annoyed and told Marilyn “You pick that up and put it on the carpet if you are going to eat it!” Marilyn turned her head away from Deb in an insolent way and blew out her dewlaps. Deb repeated her command. Marilyn glanced at her, and again looked away insolently and blew out her dewlaps. After a third try, Marilyn picked up what was left of the ice cube and took it over to the carpet to finish it.
How did that dog know to take the ice cube to the carpet? That is a complex command involving at least two concepts. It isn’t something Deb says to Marilyn on a regular basis, so she didn’t learn it through repetition. Marilyn is usually a pretty sweet and compliant dog with Deb, but they have differences of opinion at times. I love hearing about their arguments. Deb says that she never wins because Marilyn always gets the last word by blowing out her dewlaps as she walks away.
How do you talk to animals? What would they tell you if they could talk to you?
On this date in the year 600, Pope Gregory the Great decreed that the proper thing to say when someone sneezed was “God bless you”. I told this to a friend, a practicing Catholic, who said ” Who died and put him in charge!? Why are we still listening to him? We should find something new to say!” I was at a loss for her being somewhat offended by Pope Gregory, but I found her response delightful.
What are some of your favorite (or not so favorite turns of phrase)? Make up a new one if you can.
Husband read this to me the other night. It is from Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S. Grant. He is describing a 19th century railroad baron. Remind you of anyone we know?
With his handsome blond mustache, bloated frame, and diamond rings, the flashy Jim Fisk was the antithesis of the saturnine Gould. The son of a Vermont peddler, he collected prostitutes and chorus girls no less promiscuously than he bought railroads and steamships and exulted in the attention his flamboyance aroused. Such was his roguish charm that people were captivated even as they were horrified by his total lack of scruples. As George Templeton Strong sketched him: ‘Illiterate, vulgar, unprincipled, profligate, always making himself conspicuously ridiculous by some piece of flagrant ostentation, he was, nevertheless, freehanded with his stolen money, and possessed, moreover, a certain magnetism of geniality that attracted to him people who were not particular about the decency of their associates ‘. Chernow, R. (2017), p 673. Grant. Penguin Press: New York.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. What trends from the past would you like to see again?
Today is Shrove Tuesday, when all our sins are forgiven, and when we need to eat pancakes and all the cream before Lent. Husband and I celebrated early and had Norwegian waffles on Saturday. Shrove is the past tense of shrive, which means to confess one’s sins, repent, and be forgiven and absolved. Pancakes are powerful. Germans eat pastries called Fastnachts for the same effect.
We visited Montreal several summers and stayed in the Old Port. There we purchased carnival masks made in Venice in a lovely book store near the Notre Dame cathedral. We tried to find Renaissance Commedia dell’arte masks instead of the fantastical masks you can find in more commercial venues. We managed to get a zanni mask. A zanni is a servant who sometimes has a long nose. The longer his nose, the more ignorant he is. The mask reminds me of a plague mask. His name is the derivation of our English word “zany”.
A couple of Harlequin (Arlechinno) masks. He is another zanni, but with a shorter nose. He is a somewhat clever servant character:
And two Columbine (Columbina) masks. She is Harlequin’s love interest and a very perky, very clever servant.
Our local Catholic School district has a major fund raiser they call Mardi Gras every year in February. It involves games, entertainment, and lots of good food. It is open to the community and region. People are most unhappy since the new bishop in Bismarck decided a couple of years ago that all the money raised had to be sent to the diocese, and he would decide how much of the money should get sent back to the local Catholic schools and how much would be used for diocesan expenses. Sounds like a perfect Commedia plot. I am sure the clever servants would get all the money back, further any thwarted love interests, and show the bishop to be a fool.
What does the word carnival mean to you? What is the appeal wearing a mask? What kind of mask would you like to wear?
I will retire in 2021. I set as my goal for the next three years to be as appropriately funny at work as I can. I love my agency. We have had a rather rough time over the past couple of years. We are understaffed and stretched to provide mental health and addiction services to an increasing number of people. There are new service initiatives and an electronic health care record system that will start soon. Change is always difficult in government, even when it is positive change. To complicate matters, in the past two years, five employees have been summarily escorted off the premises and ordered to not return. This included our top administrator, two senior supervisors, someone from my department, and an administrative assistant. It has been a little grim. We need cheering up.
I find that pointing out the absurd, the silly, and the comically sweet goes over quite well. I never tease or get personal. I find that humor seems to liberate people and makes them bolder. We need our staff to not be afraid of being leaders in their daily work. No one seems to be annoyed with me yet. I alternate humor with serious discussion and sound advice.
How do use humor in your daily life? When does humor work the best? When doesn’t it work?
Today’s post comes from Ben.
Down by the barn is a small, 75 gallon water tank with a tank heater in it. And by ‘Tank Heater’ I mean it keeps the water just warm enough to keep it from freezing. I’ve never tested it, but it might be 34 degree’s for all I know.
I’m doing my chores one morning. And while I’m doing my chores, I put the chickens water buckets that have frozen, in that tank and leave them for a few minutes.
Then usually the ice around the edges has melted just enough that I can knock it out of the buckets.
This one particular morning while working I notice a smell from the tank. Kind of stinky, like sewage. And I thought to myself, “Huh! That’s odd” and I go about my chores. A few minutes later I’m back with another bucket of ice that I put in the tank and then I go around back to the pole barn and get a bucket of straw for the egg boxes. And when I get back, this bucket of ice has melted about half an inch all the way around and I thought “Huh! that’s interesting.”
And I dump out the ice and refill the bucket and continue my chores.
A little bit later, I’m in the tractor working down there and I notice the tank is steaming more than usual.
And I think “Huh! That’s weird.” And I go about my way.
Ah– but then I come back and take a second look. And I put my hand in the water and it’s like a hot tub! A dirty, stinky, hot tub but still; way hotter than it should be.
Evidently there is something wrong with this tank heater.
Got a new one and all is well. And I thought to myself, “Took ya long enough to pick up on those hints.”
What’s the last thing that made you say “HUH!”?
New seed catalog time has come, and Husband and I chose and ordered our selections for this year’s garden. Husband always researches the varieties carefully and chooses based on length of growing season, disease resistance, past successes, and past failures. I don’t think he ever chooses based on the name of the variety. It seems like a lot of effort goes into finding catchy names to entice us to buy one variety over another.
I wonder how they arrive at the names? I like it when a plant is named for a person-Big Jim Peppers or Queen Elizabeth Hybrid Tea Roses. Some names speak to productivity, such as Mortgage Lifter tomatoes or Lazy Housewife pole beans. Why, though, would you name a variety of celeriac Mars? There isn’t anything particularly warlike about that humble root vegetable. Flower names get pretty fanciful, such as Double Scoop Bubble Gum Echinacea.
I wondered what names Baboons could come up with if they were to name some plants, so that is today’s challenge.
Come up with some clever names for varieties of flowers, trees, vegetables, shrubs, or even weeds I will get us started with my choice of Dead Man Walking American Elm.